Opinion: Climate change is now

The New York Times

Friday, April 21, 2017NYTimes.com/Opinion »

David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt

Op-Ed Columnist

The damage from climate change isn’t just coming in the future. It’s part of the present, as this weekend’s issue of The New York Times Magazine points out.

“Last year, melting permafrost in Siberia released a strain of anthrax, which had been sealed in a frozen reindeer carcass, sickening 100 people and killing one child,” Jon Mooallem writes. “Parts of Washington now experience flooding 30 days a year, a figure that has roughly quadrupled since 1960.
In Wilmington, N.C., the number is 90 days.”Yet in the face of this urgent challenge — one that affects all of humanity, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, America and the rest of the world — President Trump has chosen to accelerate climate change. He and his aides are encouraging pollution.
What can you do about it?
You can get involved politically, and you should. Participate in efforts to persuade the administration and Congress to take a different tack. Strive to elect people who take climate change seriously. But such work has a long lead time and an uncertain outcome.
In the meantime, you can do something else, as well: Look for ways to influence companies, communities, cities and states, all of which can have a big effect on the climate. In these realms, there is reason for optimism — and room to do so much more.This week, Walmart announced that it planned to remove one billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by 2030. “That’s more than the annual emissions of Germany,” writes Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, which is working with the company.
“It’s the equivalent of taking 211 million cars off the road every year.”Cities — including New York, Mexico City, Shenzen and others — have also taken big steps.
Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, the former head of the Sierra Club, have a new book out, with many more details on what can be done. (Tom Friedman talked about their book in his column this week.)
These actions are not a full replacement for action by national governments, as Nick Stockton of Wired notes. Trump’s pro-pollution policy will do great damage. But climate change is too big a problem for defeatism. Even now, there are many ways for citizens to act.
The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Holly Fernandez Lynch and Steven Joffe on the story of Henrietta Lacks.
Also, on climate and Trump: Keep an eye out for a Sunday Review package going online later this morning, including Bill McKibben on the time we can’t get back and oceanographer Sylvia Earle on the plight of the horseshoe crab.